Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

76ers Preview: How hot is Brett Brown's hot seat?

This time of year, as we brace for the start of another NBA season, it's not uncommon to discuss job security for some coaches.

This time of year, as we brace for the start of another NBA season, it's not uncommon to discuss job security for some coaches.

This is more than ever appropriate for those who follow the 76ers. After going 10-72 last season and a combined 47-199 in the last three seasons, Brett Brown finds himself on the figurative hot seat.

Everyone from bloggers to reporters to opposing NBA personnel has been speculating on Brown's job security. Some have stated that the 55-year-old is embarking on a bona fide make-or-break season.

"I love my job and the spirit of this city," Brown said Thursday. "I have no further comment."

Sixers president Bryan Colangelo, however, did have something to say.

He said, at this stage, any "outward discussion" or "ridiculous speculation" about this being a make-or-break season for Brown is unfounded and unfair.

Record alone, it's easy to see why someone with a winning percentage of 19.1 would be the subject of job-security speculation. That's especially true when his new boss, Colangelo, wasn't the person who hired him.

But this is far from a normal situation.

Brown was hired on Aug. 14, 2013, to rebuild the Sixers. He was told the team would sacrifice wins to secure a lottery pick during his first season. That was far from the truth.

The Sixers tanked for three seasons en route to becoming the laughingstock on the NBA. Things were in disarray, on and off the court, which led to the NBA urging the Sixers ownership to hire Jerry Colangelo as a consultant. Former president and general manager Sam Hinkie resigned in April after learning he would be demoted to make room for Bryan Colangelo.

Bryan Colangelo said he was impressed with how Brown, to the best of his ability, kept the team headed in the right direction amid all the turmoil that dragged people down. From the outside, Colangelo saw a team that played hard. It just couldn't win.

"This is a chance for us to get together," Colangelo said of working with Brown. "We had a great summer of communication and roster building. Everything that we do has been in tandem.

"I've always said that's the way I operate; I'm a consensus builder and want to move forward to things that make sense to the group and not just me the individual. Coaches make or break personnel decisions."

However, there was speculation about Brown's job security as soon as Jerry Colangelo was hired in December. One of his first moves was hiring Mike D'Antoni to be Brown's associate head coach.

The Colangelos and D'Antoni have a relationship dating back to their days with Phoenix in the early 2000s. Jerry Colangelo is the former Suns owner and was a longtime cornerstone of the franchise. Bryan was the general manager, while D'Antoni was the team's successful coach.

D'Antoni accepted Houston's vacated coaching job in May. But before then, there were some rumblings around the league about D'Antoni being in line to replace Brown early this season if he struggled.

Might Colangelo want the coach to be someone that he hired? The team president isn't afraid to part ways with a coach during the season if things aren't going well.

In Phoenix, he fired Frank Johnson 21 games into the 2003-04 season. And that came after Johnson led the Suns to the first round of the 2002-03 playoffs. The Arizona Republic reported that Johnson's personal behavior caused a minor scandal in the organization.

Then as Toronto's president/general manager, Colangelo fired Sam Mitchell 17 games into 2008-09 season. The Raptors were 8-9. Mitchell had also led the Raptors to back-to-back postseason appearances in the previous two seasons.

"The league turns over every year," said a league executive, who doesn't believe Brown is as safe as Colangelo said. "Every year, there are 10 new coaches in the league. Unless you are [Gregg] Popovich, Doc Rivers, [Tom] Thibodeau or Stan Van Gundy, I think all these coaches are being scrutinized every year."

But the Sixers have been more focused on player development than winning basketball games. He had hoped to focus more on winning this season. That changed, however, with several key players being injured and/or having to deal with restricted minutes on the court.

The Sixers was expected to win around 25 games before first overall pick Ben Simmons suffered a fractured right foot on the final day of training camp. Now, they may be lucky to win more than 18. As a result, it might be hard to gauge Brown's coaching ability in wins and losses.

One Northwest division coach said there are very few coaches - if any - that could have put up with the job Brown had to endure the last three seasons. The coach pointed out that Brown hasn't had one regular starter from the time he took the job until now.

However, Brown has been criticized for his coaching decisions late in several of last season's heartbreaking losses.

"Philadelphia fans are smart enough to understand that we are completely still in a growth mode," said Brown, who received a contract extension in December. "There are things to be excited about because there are pieces that will be with us for a long time."

Colangelo has said that this season's success can't be judged by wins and losses. The Sixers realize that victories will be hard to come by without the injured Simmons and Jerryd Bayless. They'll tell you their roster is made up of 20-year-olds in a grown man's league. They talk how several of their go-to players haven't played a second of basketball.

"So from my perspective, it's still about holding the team together," Brown said. "It's about moving it forward in relation to trying to grow our guys and ultimately get a team that come together just with the experience of playing with each other and playing NBA basketball."

Not just the Sixers, Brown is fully invested in the region. He conducted 50 free clinics for junior basketball players in each of the last two years. During that time, Brown also has an annual coaches clinic.

This year's clinic was Tuesday, with a turnout of a little over 500 coaches. And he's actively involved in his son's Sam's Philly Triple Threat AAU team.

It's obvious that Brown is going about things like he expects to be here for a while.